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It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes at Night is incredibly manipulative in the way it reels you in, first assisting you in comfort and then, in the blink of an eye, taking you to the edge of insanity.  The film is dark but not a horror film per se.  It’s an on the edge of your seat thriller that pulls you in several directions at once; barely allowing you a moment to rest before tugging at again you again.  Watching, you’re like the young woman in the opening scene of Jaws, being whipped about and then pulled into the depths of the unknown.  The unknown in this instance is what comes at night, in the darkness, when you’re alone and everything around you is a potential threat.      

This is a story about a family who has a home deep in the woods that is now their hideaway from whatever happened to the rest of the world.  What happened is unidentified but it was toxic.  Something made people who were exposed to ‘it’ violently ill.  This plaque of sorts kills you rather quickly and those who figured it out and hoped they weren’t exposed ran away and either contaminated others with their infection or learned how to live with it.  Paul and Sarah, their son Travis have learned how to cope and also protect themselves from being vulnerable.  Sadly, as we learn in the opening scene of the film, this has come too late for her father Bud who is already covered in blisters, barely breathing and about to die.  Paul, with Travis (who’s only seventeen), takes Bud to an open pit they dug.  After putting him down like an animal, they throw his body in and burn his remains to help stop the spread of the mysterious disease. 

A well lit and beautifully photographed, (complete with an eerily creepy yet gorgeous string instrument filled track) nightmare later, we awaken with Travis screaming that someone is in the house.  By the way, this scene has one hell of a memorable jump scare.   Anyway, the family, prepared for this kind of assault, finds that a young man has broken in and they surprise him, shove guns in his face, take him outside and tie him to a tree to teach him a lesson.  They’re not kind to strangers.  They live by rules that have kept them alive so far and this man has challenged those rules.  Before long, we discover that he simply wants to bring his family there; to live somewhere out of danger.  Sarah talks Paul into allowing this and though Paul is skeptical, he agrees.  Travis enjoys the family being there and what ultimately started out as a thriller becomes sort of a drama in that Travis begins to resent his situation as well as his father. 

It Comes at Night is aesthetically pleasing.  The music is outstanding and lends to the intensity throughout the film.  Tribal drumbeats explode so loudly from the speakers of one scene that it seems the vibration alone physically moves you.  Director Shults (Krisha) uses this tactic each and every time anything exciting happens.  It’s made better by the sheer skill in which he chooses to tell his story. 

My final take is that a lot of what’s going on in the film you’ll see coming if you’ve been watching page-turners your whole life.  I believe you’ll forgive this because of the imaginative nature with which these characters have derived.  The film is a survival guide on steroids and an unbelievably heartbreaking look at what we could become, leaving you to wonder how you’d behave in the same situation.  It’s a bit slow at times and there are a few moments that don’t quite add up but as I mentioned before, they’re nothing that will ruin the film for you.  I’d like to warn you of one thing, however, if you have a weak heart!  If Travis is on the screen, get yourself in defense mode.

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At the beginning of the film, there is only sound.  We hear a man answering questions presented to him by a healthcare professional.  The questions are frustrating him as they don’t have anything to do with the reason he’s calling but he gets on with answering them anyway as he’s expected to.  Some of this is quite comical but when you realize how serious his situation is, you see that the “professional” in health isn’t exactly helpful and certainly doesn’t seem to care much for what he has to say; which is the theme of the movie. 

Daniel Blake, (Johns, in his first feature film), is an older man who until recently was a carpenter.  He has a serious heart condition and his doctor hasn’t cleared him to work.  Due to something he’s sure is an error, he is all of the sudden considered eligible to work and loses his unemployment benefits.  Seems now he can only receive a “job seekers allowance,” which is considerably smaller and not something he can live on.  He can file an appeal, it’ll be looked at and, hopefully, it will come back in his favor.  Obstacle after obstacle is in this man’s way.  Not only is it nearly impossible for someone to get through on the phone to these “professionals” because they’re out of touch with patients (they’re sitting in a call center), but Daniel finds that almost everything in the modern world has to do everything from the computer.  He doesn’t own one and hasn’t used one.  Obviously, this is a big problem for him.  I wonder how many people truly have this problem around the world which makes this movie such an intriguing subject for writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach, both of whom made The Wind That Shakes the Barley together, to broach.  I’d think many will be glad they did; showing that not everyone is computer savvy which is a sort of discrimination.  The film also exposes the truth of what Social Security looks like in this day and age.  Are all of us one step away from losing everything we have and begging for food?  Told often in a comical fashion, the film is actually a drama that brings to light the social injustices that can befall any of us at any moment. 

Daniel is a marvelous character.  He may be down but don’t count him out.  Having paid his taxes all his life, he will fight to get what’s rightfully his.  While in the Social Security office going round and round with a member of the staff, getting nowhere and now being asked to wait, he notices a woman, Katie (Squires).  She’s with two children and is getting kicked out for daring to ask for some forgiveness.  She’s new to the area, got lost and couldn’t help being a bit late to her appointment.  Katie is being turned away and being the good, kind, caring person that  Daniel is, he steps in and creates a scene.  He essentially asks someone behind a desk to find a heart and treat her with dignity and respect.  They’re both kicked out and he ends up helping her himself.  This leads to a wonderful friendship.  It’s nothing sexual, just a beautiful, caring, friendship between two people who have what the other needs… some love to offer.  Daniel and Katie are in a class struggle and for the rest of the film we see what people are put through by a system not really meant to help people, but to rather lead them quicker to the deathbed to save the state some money.  They’re both stuck in the mother of all Catch-22’s. 

In order to keep his benefits, he’s asked to look for a job and show proof he’s looking or he’ll lose what he IS getting.  As we’ve established, with his heart condition, if he were to actually get a job, he’d have to turn it down because of his heart condition… not that any of this is doing him any good.  Helping Katie and her children, who have just moved into government housing and are having a tough time with things, puts a smile on his face and will yours, as well.  In an incredibly moving scene, Daniel takes Katie to a food bank and, so hungry that she can’t wait, Katie opens a can of food while standing at the shelf she took it from, she starts shoving it in her mouth.  The scene is so well done I couldn’t help but cry some.  Eventually, she ends up finding work to pay the bills but not a job  she, nor Daniel, are too happy about.       

There are exquisitely crafted scenes and also political tidings in I, Daniel Blake.  There are clear messages of the times that one might want to observe while being entertained but don’t see this as a political film because it’s not.  It’s a very human story that shows how fallible we are and reveals the truth about how we’re left stranded by the very organization that’s supposed to care for us all.  We also see people go out of their way for one another in a manner I haven’t seen in a film in awhile.  It’s a touching narrative and the cast is top notch.  In the end, Daniel gets to say how he feels.  His words are biting as he explains how he’s not a blip on a screen or a number but he’s a citizen who has paid his dues.  There’s a powerful ending with a message that says, ‘I’m just Daniel Blake; a person who needs to be treated like one.’  I expect your cheeks may flush when you see how this story ends.  I do strongly recommend this film.  There are a few times the accent gets a little too thick to understand but luckily it doesn’t happen very often. 

Megan Leavey Movie Review

This is a film about Megan Leavey, a Marine K9 Handler and the bomb-sniffing German Sheppard, Rex, with whom she’d do anything to save as he did her on the battlefields of Iraq.  They were involved in over 100 missions and saved countless lives but now, she must save Rex.  It begins by introducing us to Megan (Mara) and what ultimately leads her to make the decision to join the Marines.  Like many stories that lead to this same resolution, she’s from a broken family and after her best friend kills himself, she feels displaced and assumes the Military will give her what she’s desperately missing; some discipline and some personal strength.

Being new on base and still a bit naïve, she gets caught urinating in a bush and finds herself on kennel cleaning detail as her discipline.  She’s not happy but it could be worse.  She’s not terribly fond of a dog named Rex when their paths first cross and he’s not too fond of her either but before long, she likes how being around the animals makes her feel and the respect they give her is unlike any she’s gotten in her entire life.  She does the only thing that would possibly make her happy at this point in her life; she convinces Gunny Martin (Common) to let her train to be a handler.  It’s explained to her that being in control and being confident at all times is key to this job.  She’s told that everything she feels goes ‘down leash.’  If you can’t control yourself, you can’t control the animal.  When she has this down, Megan finally feels she has grown up and it shows in character. 

Soon, she and Rex are off to Iraq and she’s warned to be careful as there are large bounties out for female handlers.  She learns a lot, especially by making mistakes, but she also teaches the men in her unit that a woman is just as good as a man.  Similar to the views of this particular enemy, women only go so far in battle and Megan and Rex are somewhat relegated to only working at checkpoints; not allowed to go on missions.  This frustrates her.  This doesn’t last long, though.  Three months after her arrival, being the only handler available, she finally gets the opportunity she’s been hoping for and is directed to the front lines.  Well trained and following the prompting of this master, Rex finds a massive stash of arms, saving many lives in the process.  And just like that, they are the heroes of the unit.  Moving forward, their courage and abilities make them the team most wanted for missions.

After being incredibly successful, Corporal Megan Leavey and Rex are both wounded by an IED.  She’s sent to the hospital and is separated from the dog, who she now considers hers.  Another thing handlers are warned never to do is to ever see the dogs as theirs.  They belong to the Marines.  The dogs are soldiers, not pets.  Unable to forget him and his unconditional love, she does everything in her power to track him down.  Deciding not to re-enlist, she continues her quest after being told he is going to be retired.  Desperate to adopt him, she’s then told he’s not adoptable because he’s too aggressive and the military would rather put him down than take the chance Rex would mistake a child’s toy gun as a real gun and possibly take an innocent life.  All of that said, she fights harder to save him.  Putting her life on hold, she gets a petition going and even approaches Senator Chuck Schumer in the hopes of being listened to about what Rex means to her.  He may not stand on two legs, but being that he was a soldier in battle, he deserves the chance to live. 

Megan Leavey is a touching film and if you’re in need of a good cleansing cry, this would be the picture for you to see this weekend.  Mara is delightful, the script is engaging and the story is powerful.  There’s also a special treat so stay for the end because you get to see the real Rex and Leavey which adds more heart and even more of a reason to see the film.

My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel starts with a letter from one cousin to the other; cousins who love and respect one another but have been apart for a very long time.  This is writer/director Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) take on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and it’s rather entertaining, even if you do leave scratching your head. 

Having been orphaned as a child when both of his parents had died, Philip (Claflin) is raised by Ambrose who gladly took him in.  He, while single, managed to even play father figure while contemporaneously playing best friend to Philip.  One day, Philip gets a letter from him and within the letter, he notices a secret message to him regarding his cousin’s wife, Rachel (Weisz).  Ambrose believes that she is a danger to him and requests that Philip come as quickly as possible to help him.  Sadly, he isn’t fast enough.  Ambrose passes and he is beyond devastated.  He was already looking to help Ambrose with his problem, now he wants desperately, to hunt her down and exact his revenge.  

Philip speaks to the family lawyer, Kendall (Glen) about the estate and learns that Rachel had received no inheritance.  This being the case, what would she have to gain from doing anything to hurt Ambrose?  Philip is not deterred by this.  Kendall may think she’s innocent but Philip, now head of the estate, will use all of his power to find Rachel and acquire the truth.  Guessing she’s a foul beast, he calls on her and she comes to stay as a guest in the worst room Philip can put her in.  She’s ever grateful and sweet about everything; fine with the accommodations and pleased to be so welcome.  Once he sets his eyes on her, all plans Philip had are out the window.  As his cousin surely did, he falls instantly in love.  Is she a witch?  Is she a vixen?  Has she cast a spell on the impressionable young master of the house?  Louise (Grainger), Kendall’s daughter, who had joked with Philip about what an awful person this Rachel must be and knew of his plans to ruin her, had set her eyes on Philip long ago.  Once she sees Rachel with him, she knows she has no chance. 

As her heart breaks, the audience grows suspicious about who this woman is and what she’s really after.  If she is who Ambrose said she is, this young man who has zero experience with women has no chance against the likes of her.  Let the games begin.  It’s intriguing watching Rachel work her magic, both the actress and the character.  With just one look from her, he changes in an instant… one tiny little kiss and he’s wrapped around her finger.  She tells him intimate things such as the time she lost her baby and shows him honesty when people try to prove her anything but which leaves him more vulnerable and finds him more beguiled than before.  Seems all is going according to plan, wouldn’t you say?

That’s where I got a little lost.  I’m not certain of that.  As I previously mentioned, by the time the credits role, this could be a little bit of a head scratcher for you.  I must mention, however, that the performances were more than acceptable.  His infatuated boy trying to become a man is very good and Weisz is strong as a woman to be suspicious of.  She shows range as her character becomes sickeningly sweet one minute, full of despair the next, then suddenly turns back into someone you may have never known at all.  I recommend a theatre watch, but maybe just a matinee.  It’s beautiful to watch and the music is more than satisfactory for the period and is pleasing to your ears.    

The Mummy Movie Review

Universal Studios has long history of horror and fantasy movies from back in the day. It is time to revive those golden years with something they call the “Dark Universe”. Many of the creatures and monsters from the past will be remade, with the first one in the series called “The Mummy”. This will not be the same one as the 1999 version with Brendan Fraser. No sir, this will star Tom Cruise! But it will have the same big bad monster as the last time, however it will be a female version…

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are attached to an Army unit in a far off village in Iraq. Nick is helping to locate “precious antiquities” in the desert, and a bomb explosion has uncovered an ancient Egyptian tomb. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is searching for the same buried treasures, and she has a special pass from the London government to assist Nick and Chris Vail. However, what they find is soon to be discovered not as a burial site, but an Egyptian tomb/prison for a wicked Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella).

Ahmanet had become an evil power-hungry killer, who had murdered the Pharaoh and his family. Her punishment was to be entombed alive, as far away from Egypt as possible. But now her sarcophagus is being unearthed and flown to London. There is a secret group there that oversees finding all monsters and destroying them. It is led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), however he has a bad tendency to turn into Mr. Hyde. Not the nicest chap on the block. The plane ride does not end well, with Chris Vail being possessed by ‘The Mummy’ (Ahmanet) and Nick shooting him dead. The plane is about to crash, and Nick saves Jenny, but he does not survive.

Until he does survive, without any explanation. But wait, Chris Vail is still there, and he is dead. But Nick can see him sometimes. The Mummy has broken out of her coffin, and attacks the guards at the plane crash site. She sucks the life from them, and they become her un-dead zombie slaves. There is a secretly stashed knife in an abbey nearby. It was smuggled out of Egypt by the Crusaders years ago. But there is a special crystal gem that gives the knife special powers. It was taken off the knife years ago, and now The Mummy needs it badly.

Jenny and Nick work together to help Dr. Jekyll finally capture The Mummy. Jekyll plans to kill and examine the remains of Princess Ahmanet, to find out how she become The Mummy. But Nick has a special bond with The Mummy, because she needs a new victim to kill in a ritual that will make him an Egyptian god. Oh, yeah, there’s lots going on, and the action goes on full tilt. But there is a confusing mish-mash of why most of this happening. Dead Chris Vail is still around on occasion, and he lightens up the mood. Nick is always overwhelmed when he tries to fight off The Mummy, the evil Mr. Hyde, and all the un-dead zombies chasing after him.

So this is pretty typical summer movie, with a bare plotline and tons of wild action. The major reintroduction of The Mummy, and Jekyll & Hyde as an aside, is real reason for the movie. This will become one of many based on the old creatures and monsters in the Universal Studio catalog. They want you to forget the 1999 version (with Brendan Fraser) and take this movie as the exciting start of something big. We will see how that goes. All the acting is OK, for a summer monster movie.

Tom Cruise runs and fights and gets along with his co-stars well. Annabelle Wallis does fine, but not memorable. Russell Crowe is low-key as Dr. Jekyll, and then turns into crazy-town when he becomes Mr. Hyde. Jake Johnson could have been used a lot more to lighten up the tone of the movie. Sofia Boutella is an attractive lady, but she has makeup and shrouding strands that bring her looks down quite a lot…

This creature feature can also be found playing in ‘No Reason to be 3-D’. 3-D does not show up well in dark and dimly-lit scenes, and there are plenty of them here. There are very few times in the movie where any 3-D stands out as a benefit to the scene. It just makes you put on dark glasses in a dark theater to watch a dark movie. It seems like more of a money grab then a way to make a more enjoyable product.

So, make room for sweet nostalgia in your new monster movies. Don’t look for well thought-out plots and dialog. Look for stunts and explosions and visual CGI. Don’t expect great character development, but get ready for lots of action in exotic places. Stay away from light-hearted comedy touches, get ready for serious ACTING!. This is not the 1999 “The Mummy”.

Tom Cruise, you’re no Brendan Fraser!

Wonder Woman Movie Review

The latest entry in the DC Comics Extended Universe is “Wonder Woman”. DC has been playing catch up to Marvel in attempting to create a unified movie universe of all their superheroes. Not every example so far has been great, but that is about to change. Being the first major movie to feature a female superhero, “Wonder Woman” has a lot to prove. It proves that a woman can be just as super a hero as any man. Maybe even more, because when she dances, it’s in reverse and in high heels!

On an island hidden from the rest of the world live the Amazon women. They are a group of warriors who train and live apart from the world. They live with a command from Zeus himself to always protect and save humanity. There is another god, Aries, the god of War who would bring death and destruction on the Earth. The only little girl on the island is Diana, but she is no Disney princess. As she grows up, she trains and can fight with powers far above this world. The peaceful island world finally comes into the real world, when a World War I plane falls into the ocean. Diana (Gal Gadot) saves the stranded pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is the first man ever to be on the island.

The Amazons find out about World War I when Germans come to battle on the shoreline to capture Steve Trevor. The Queen and Diana learn of a ‘Great War’ and they know that Aries has returned to trouble mankind. Diana and Steve leave to reach London, so he can deliver secret papers stolen from the Germans. The Allied forces have nearly reached a peace pact with the Germans. But there is an evil German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) who is willing to work with a disfigured Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Together they want to disrupt the peace process by killing off everyone in London.

Diana and Steve learn of these plans and they assemble a team to go to the front and find Ludendorff. They are helped by Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), who is leading the London peace accords. They get some people together including Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), a smooth-talking thief, Charlie (Ewen Bremner) an expert marksman, and the Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Diana (known as Diana Prince) will lead the fight against the German plan to scuttle the Armistice. They all go to France to the front, and find themselves in the trenches along with the other soldiers. Diana becomes Wonder Woman with her wrist gauntlets, boots, shield and sword. She enters the no-man’s land between the trenches and leads a fight to defeat the German forces.

Diana is sure that the evil General is Aries in disguise, ready to create the War that will lead to the destruction of all mankind. Steve is not too sure, but he and the team will together try and prevent the poison gas from being dropped on London. There is great mayhem and battles going on at the very end. It appears that Wonder Woman might have found a fight that she cannot win. However, there is sacrifice and much effort from all parties involved to end the conflict and bring peace. But how does it end? Who will live on to fight another day, and who will fall on the field of battle? You will need to find out for yourself!

Director Patty Jenkins has put together a fantastic group to create an enjoyable movie. Unlike many of the DCEU movies so far, this is not overly dark and plodding. It does deal with terrible subject of war, but it brings a hopeful enthusiasm to the screen with Wonder Woman’s faith in humanity. The need for a super hero to save people can be done with a female fighter and leader. It is not limited to alien super-strong guys from another planet, or to a guy with cool toys and neat bat outfit. Diversity is a way to give everyone a chance for greatness.

Gal Gadot has taken this role and created a super cool hero that you can admire. She has hints of her greater powers, but she does not feel that she is more special than the other people on her team. Diana has true empathy for the victims of war, and she feels deep outrage when helpless people are put into danger. She seeks truth and a balance of force, but she knows that if she gets pushed to the limit, she will fight back and can win. She becomes Wonder Woman by being true to herself and by following the teachings of her Amazon tribe.

Chris Pine falls into his character with great ease. He finds a way to make Steve Trevor a real person who has a deep love for his country and a knack for finding trouble. His character works well with the ‘Diana Prince’ character in London, to teacher her about social norms, and about ice cream. Everyone else is very well cast and they do an excellent job. Even when Danny Huston and David Thewlis get close to chewing the scenery.

‘Wonder Woman” will make you forget about the TV version, and Gal Gadot will own that role forever. She takes it and makes it a new “Wonder” of  the world. No doubt about it. This new “Wonder Woman” is quite a Gal!

Baywatch

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch was a cream-filled pastry in the dinner menu of network TV. It existed only for exposing hard bodies and soft curves with a sweet summer tan. But now, there is no better way to have a movie based on the TV series. Just have the same focus on the brawn and the bodies, and the tanned cleavage starring right back at you. Nothing serious, just a “Baywatch” extended episode with the hard-R raunchiness factor turned way up.

“Baywatch” is now led by a bulked-up head lifeguard named Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson). He has new recruits for the summer, and one of them is former (but now disgraced) Olympic gold-winner swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Brody was forced on Mitch by his boss, because the team needed ‘star power’. The other recruits are Summer (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie (Jon Bass).  They join other Baywatch members, including Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and C.J. Parker (Kelly Rohrbach).

Mitch is pleased to just save lives on the beach and getting people to behave. But there is a mysterious drug trade popping up, and Mitch thinks he knows who is behind it all. A new woman who has just taken over a fancy club is named Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). She has money and influence with the city council. But Mitch believes she is behind a growing conspiracy to take over with drug running.

 

Soon a councilman dies out on a party boat, and Mitch and his team are skeptical of the ‘official’ explanation. Mitch and Matt continue to dig into what happened. The other team members including Summer and C.J. are investigating the situation. Ronnie finds out that someone he knew was been found dead from a shark attack. But this guy had been working for Leeds at her club, and the guy could not even swim. Something is fishy, and it ain’t the fish.

Mitch’s boss tells him to cool it, and the local police do not want his help. But Mitch has latched on to something and he will not let go. He even gets a visit from someone who first taught Mitch everything about being leader of Baywatch. It is The Mentor (David Hasselhoff). When everyone on his team seems to be in trouble, it is Mitch to the rescue.

This version of “Baywatch” is pretty much like the TV series. It has no reason for you to take it seriously. There are plenty of hard bodies on display, and many tanned bosoms. But as far as plot or story line, well, that went out with the tide. When the movie attempts to get into an actual plot, it tends to drown out all the comedy. And when it goes for the funny parts, it sometimes gets too dirty and gritty. Like too much sand in your swimsuit. When you have six different people working out the story and script, the result is like Memorial Day size crowds on the beach, you cannot find one spot and stick to it.

All of the actors seem to be having a great time. Dwayne Johnson is amazing to watch, everything he does seems so natural and easy. He looks relaxed and in control. Zac Efron is an asset to every scene he is in. He has such a clueless look and winning smile that you can’t help but root for him. Alexandra Daddario does a fine job, and she does some nice comedy bits. Kelly Rohrbach just oozes out sex appeal and beauty. But Jon Bass does some classic fun stuff in his role, being a ‘fish out of water’ type, right next to the beach.

If this movie had the focus of the movie version of  “21 Jump Street” and really went all out into the ‘hey, this is something so dumb it seems like it could be from a TV show’, then this might be a classic. But it did not go in that direction, and this movie will be nothing more than a sand castle built on the beach at low tide. It’s here today, and tomorrow gone.

Paris Can Wait Movie Review

This film is pure escapism.  Anne (Lane), wife of Michael (Baldwin), a movie mogul who is so successful he’s usually too busy to spend time with her, is on a car trip from Cannes to Paris with her husband’s business partner, Jacques, played ardently by Arnaud Viard, to then meet her husband there for vacation.  They live in L.A. but are in Cannes for the film festival and always end up in Paris after. 

This time the trip will take her to Paris by land, rather than by air as she usually does.  She’s never seen the countryside in France, though she had always wanted to.  Lucky for her, she gets a chance to see it by an enthusiastic escort.  She assumed the trip will be seven hours but it turns out to be two days.  When she admits she had always wanted to see the lavender in bloom, and beams with joy when they drive passed some, Jacques knows he can’t let her get to Paris without experiencing all France has to offer. 

They stop for the night and have a romantic dinner; a dinner that Michael never would have been interested in taking her on, as well as one that he couldn’t have taken her on.  He hasn’t the knowledge of the land nor does he have an interest in pleasing her quite so much.  She is being treated to the vacation of her dreams.  They have tastes of almost everything on the menu and, fluent in French, Jacques speaks romantically of the dishes and the wine and speaks to her with palpable delight. 

As the miles closer to Paris dwindle, the film becomes more and more romantic.  There’s flirtation and both parties drop obvious hints of interest but things are fairly innocent.  Lane’s Anne is very sweet and gracious.  They stop at such beautiful places that she can’t help but jump out and take pictures, a new hobby of hers.  Jacques can’t help but ask to see them and is quite taken with her eye.  His genuine interest in her passions arouses, springs back to life, something in Anne that had been long expired.  You get the feeling that romance may be on Anne’s mind but she’s too innocent to ever act on it.  When the car breaks down and he suggests having a picnic rather than tending to it immediately, she tries to persuade him to get them back on the road but he reminds her that the car will be there when they’re done and so will Paris. 

The trip is lovely and she opens up a little yet a private tour through a museum, where a friend of Jacques works, shows her that men are not to be trusted, especially French men, and a piece of her heart seems to break a little.  The trip segues’s enough and along with her smiles she imparts on him a tragic and painful loss.  This scene is magnificent; everything about it delicate and done with a qualified touch, come to think of it, everything else about the film is, too.  It’s written and by Eleanor Coppola, wife of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now).  Though she isn’t new to filmmaking, this is her first narrative feature… and she’s 81 years of age.  This film is quite an accomplishment for a newbie.  

Paris Can Wait felt very much like a Woody Allen Film in its subject matter, style and in how the male lead, Jacques, expresses his dialogue and what the dialogue in the film reveals.  It’s even in France, a favorite location that Allen shoots.  It also has beautiful and appropriate music that accompanies us on our journey with these characters; it lightly flutters about in the background and between lines of dialogue belonging to Jacques and Anne.  I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone who likes romance and wouldn’t mind a character in a film giving you a tour through France.  From beginning to end, it held my interest seeing these two get close.  I liked how it ended and I hope that this isn’t the end for Coppola.  I thought she did a fine job and I’d be first in line to see what’s next.

The Wedding Plan Movie Review

A devoutly religious woman by the name of Michal (Koler), an Orthodox Jew, is dumped by her fiancé, Gidi, as they are making their wedding plans.  He acts strangely; she asks ‘why;’ he scolds her to put it all on her and then tells her he doesn’t love her.  Nice guy.  Regardless, it breaks her heart and she feels terrible about herself.  She wants to know what is wrong with her but being a woman who never questions God she knows she is loved by Him; therefore, he has a divine plan.  This being the case than the proposed ceremony should still go on.  It isn’t Gidi she needs to love her; God does and He will provide.  She has to believe it and trust Him.

So, from Shimi, the man who owns the wedding hall, Michal keeps the date as it was, (the eighth night of Hanukkah) books the hall and sends out the invitations to her guests.  Her groom will come.  This is a small task for God to get her a husband.  She may lack courage but he is omniscient.  So, with faith in hand, she gets some matchmakers on the job so she can meet more men to speed up the process of the remaining days for her prince to come. 

These men are, we’ll say, interesting!  One captivating scene is with a quirky man who won’t look at her because he only wants to gaze upon his wife.  He does like her and during this blind date, actually, proposes.  I’ll let you find out what happens next but it is amusing and their behavior is thought-provoking.  Everything she does is thought provoking.  It’s quite something watching her grow as a person.  Maybe because she cleanses herself by admitting that she desperate and doesn’t want to be alone anymore but in searching for someone to love her she’s finding her true self; her own identity, something she doesn’t think she poses or has the right to.  She tells her Rabbi, who is appauled she’s asking for a miracle, that she isn’t asking anything from God, only asking herself to believe in His plan.  However, she does want to know, at this point, why she was created if she’s a phony with little hope.  Still, she remains resolute.

She sees her sister in a crazy marriage of fighting for the other’s attention and she doesn’t want this but wants the life of a married woman, even if that’s what she ends up with.  She wants a life where she isn’t only being invited places but is doing the inviting.  She wants respect and she knows this will all come from having a spouse.  At thirty-two, Michal thinks she’s practically a spinster.  As the date she’s given herself to find Mr. Right draws near, family and friends are starting to have doubt but she’s holding firm.  Of the blind dates she’s endured, one possible match, Assaf, has stood out above the rest.  He may be the one but it seems he won’t be back in town before the day of the wedding.  She meets a gorgeous, very sweet, genuine, caring popstar, Yos (Zehavi) who is interested in her.  She’s almost certain he’s having fun with her but will he be the one?

I really enjoyed this movie!  It’s a great concept and the execution couldn’t have been better.  The cast was absolutely outstanding and the music!  Oh, the music is wonderful.  Soundtrack purchase for this gal!  The songs Yos sings are heard throughout the movie and they’re deep and meaningful and each piece is piercing and memorable.  Zehavi is beautiful in the film and gives the audience the glimmer of hope that Michal will be fine in the end.  Koler, in her first film role, took Michal on and showed her strengths, her weaknesses; she was cute, charming, she was nasty and could be cruel.  She was incredibly honest in her betrayal of someone who has always hidden from the truth.  I recommend The Wedding Plan highly.  I had a visceral reaction to this film because I got so involved in Michal’s outcome that I may or may not have hit the screen a few times.  Anyway, it is in subtitles but you can handle it.  It’s a marvelous story… one that comes down to the wedding day.  She’s at the alter in her dress; waiting.  Will someone come?  If so, is it the right one… the one you want her to be with?  Watch and find out.

Phoenix!  It’s playing starting today at Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square!

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

While the Alien Covenant film is tolerable, mostly due to the visuals, the crew you should be rooting for during any crisis they may be facing is less than memorable.  None of the characters are especially noteworthy and you won’t grow particularly fond of anyone as the story progresses.  It’s this connection that’s needed and is so important for a story like this to propel you into the world they inhabit. 

Fearing for a character’s safety, especially in this particular franchise, is paramount to it being a success.  Though Covenant does bring back the horror element that was more dominant in the first film, Alien, it doesn’t quite capture the consternation that the original had.  That said, it is more on the gory side of the horror, sci-fi genre.   It’s set about a decade in the aftermath of Prometheus, a film not well loved by the Alien faithful.  Though the film may not have been well received, Michael Fassbender was and is in this film, as well.  He’s back as David and also as Walter, another synthetic.  Walter looks like David, has many of the qualities of David except for one little important difference.  I’ll let you discover that on your own.

Walter Minds the crew and the ship, Covenant, as its crew members and cargo of pilgrims make their journey to another planet similar to our own in the hopes of colonizing it.  A short time passes and, of course, insert one of the typical problems that happen in films where spaceships are floating along in deep space; they’re hit by something that does damage.  This also awakens most of the crew who have been in a deep sleep… killing a few along the process.

They receive a strange message from a planet closer to the one they had originally charted their course for.  This seems a little too convenient but the captain (Crudup) says it’ll be worth a shot and they set out for this planet instead.  This is where it really gets sloppy because the things these skilled professionals are doing say to a filmgoer that the filmmaker doesn’t take your intelligence into consideration when creating a story.  Several things happen that get different members of the crew ill when they land on this unknown land.  They aren’t really quarantined which leads to more devastation but at least it’s entertaining.  Per usual, the effects are great and the visuals of the first person, who shows signs of being taken over by a foreign entity and thusly being killed by it, is ghoulish and eerie… everything you could have hoped for.

Eventually they find David who has been alone here (obviously he’s the one who would have sent the message for them to pick up) and he and Walter get to know one another; and as long as you don’t get lost as to which is which it’s fairly easy to deduce that one is up to something and the other is now a useful pawn.

A spaceship has issues; check.  We have aliens; check.  The film has formulaic touches you’d expect it to have; check.  Unfortunately, its pacing is slow and flat in the beginning and the characters so drab, (which is sad because one is supposed to be the descendant of Ripley from Alien) that it’s hard to really get into it.  There are so many, if you really want to tear it apart, problems with it that if you concentrate on them, your brain will explode so, best not to.  One specific thing I feel I must address, though, is their brains.  This crew does this for a living and they just disregard all policy, procedure, rules and… all common sense the minute they land on a strange planet?!  It makes no sense so try not to think about it too much.  Just let things that defy logic or are the completely unexplained go.  If you love sci-fi films and the Alien franchise as a whole, you might have some need for this.  You’re not going to totally dislike it, you’re just not going to love it.  It’s not the worst of the bunch; however, it’s certainly not the best.  Rumor is there will be a few more of these… I hope Scott turns the helm over to someone who can steer a little better.

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